No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.

1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV

You are unique. God made you with something special in mind, there is no doubt about that. 

The same is true, however, for the person next to you. What makes you unique is different from everyone else, but the fact you are unique is common to all the people God has made.

We probably all realize this to one extent or another, but have we truly come to terms with what it means for us? There is a common human experience, and this fact has important implications for how we make decisions. 

There are two ways to approach a decision or make some kind of judgement: the inside view, and the outside view. 

In his book Think Twice, Michael Mauboussin, who is a professor and investment strategist for a large Wall Street firm, outlines the differences between the inside view and the outside view. 

The inside view relies on personal experience, gut intuition, and anecdotes. We humans naturally believe in our own ability to perceive and understand the world around us, and the inside view leans on this understanding. If we can formulate a good story (even if it's not a true story) with the information close at hand, then we run with that story. We make decisions and predictions about the future using that story as a model, and we feel a sense of confidence in the outcomes. 

This confidence is not something we choose. It just shows up when we think about our own abilities. For instance, imagine we get a group of ten people together and asked each of them to rate their driving ability. Inevitably, most of the people would rate themselves as above average - a conclusion which is not mathematically possible. This same question could be asked in dozens of other arenas of life, and we would consistently hear the same answers.

We feel that we are above average in a whole host of things, and so do most other people. 

What's worse is the fact that the less we know in a given area, the more confident we tend to become in our abilities. Psychologists Justin Kruger and David Dunning performed a study where they asked people to rate their own ability to do well on a grammar test. They then compared these ratings with the actual results of the grammar test. The individuals who did the worst on the actual test were the ones who overstated their abilities prior to the exam the most.1 

Without thinking about it or doing it on purpose, we act as though we are the exception when we stay with the inside view.

The outside view tries to account for the common human experience. It asks questions like, "Has anyone else faced these circumstances, and how did it turn out for them?"

Taking the outside view means not assuming we are the exception. It uses whatever common human experience may exist to inform decisions. The outside view recognizes that we are often over-optimistic about the chances of own success, and that we under estimate the chances we may fail or that our plans might not work out. 

When we think about the choices being made by others, we don't succumb to the same illusions. We are much more thoughtful when evaluating the potential pitfalls other people may face. We are outsiders in those instances. Taking this same thoughtfulness and applying it to our own lives is difficult.

It is difficult, but it is the truth.  

Being the exception sounds so appetizing, but it's a sure way to face disappointment in life. Sometimes, things just won't work out. This is part of the human experience - and it's okay. We can still have a fulfilling life even if everything doesn't work out.

Honestly, what choice do we have?

1. Michael J. Mauboussin, Think Twice, pgs 1-16